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Sep 02, 2021
Good morning! They say all publicity is good publicity. Well, not if Islamist militants hogging global headlines are your unwanted brand ambassadors. Read on about the unlikely fans of Toyota Land Cruisers and Casio watches. And while we’re on branding, meet the political strategists helping to catapult world leaders to power, often against the odds. And if all that reality leaves you craving something different, we bring you three reads you should check out to really understand Latin America. Read to the end for this week’s spot the difference!
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a Texas law that limits the termination of a pregnancy at six weeks and allows citizens to sue abortion providers, setting the stage for future political and legal battles over women’s health. Ahead of the court decision on Wednesday, President Joe Biden had promised to defend access to abortion in the country. Biden said the Texas law “blatantly violates” constitutional protections guaranteed thanks to the historic Roe v. Wade judgement. The conservative-leaning top court’s next test comes in October, when it will decide on a similar law in Mississippi. (Sources: AP, BBC, Guardian, NYT)
2 - Ida Bites at Big Apple
At the moment, the New York state of mind is a state of emergency. America’s largest city is battling severe flooding as Hurricane Ida batters the country’s northeast, triggering at least one tornado. Meanwhile, a historic drought affecting South America’s Paraná River, the second largest in the region, is threatening water supplies for 40 million people. (Sources: AP, NBC, BBC)
3 - Friends With Benefits
Call me maybe? The U.S. is considering a future partnership with the Taliban to tackle a shared enemy, the Islamic State Khorasan. “It’s possible,” confirmed Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when asked yesterday. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the Taliban are edging closer to forming a government, with indications that the group’s mysterious leader Haibatullah Akhundzada could head it. (Sources: AP, NYT)
4 - Ivory Coast #MoiAussi Moment
A popular TV host in Ivory Coast has been handed a 12-month suspended jail sentence and a $3,600 fine for encouraging a former rapist to act out his crimes on a mannequin during his show. (Source: Al Jazeera)
5 - Beijing Battles Burnout
China’s top court is cracking down on 12-hour workdays, six days a week, ruling against the common practice in favor of workers in a series of major lawsuits. Is China doing the right thing? Answer here or on Twitter. (Source: BBC)
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It was the same angry leftist rhetoric telling voters they couldn’t trust the big mainstream parties. But when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador — aka AMLO — stood in Mexico’s 2018 presidential election after losing the previous two times, he had one big difference in his team: Clouthier. Though an unlikely pick as ALMO’s campaign chief — her father Manuel Clouthier had been the presidential candidate of the conservative National Action Party in 1988 — Clouthier injected levity, humor and relatability into the populist’s message. It worked. Clouthier made sure it was third-time lucky for AMLO, in whose government she now serves as secretary of the economy.
2 - Prashant Kishor
For three decades before 2014 no leader had won a majority in India’s federal elections. Kishor changed that, carefully crafting the image of controversial Narendra Modi into a beacon of hope for progress and leading him to victory. Since then, Kishor has left Modi and instead scripted the success of multiple parties in India’s most politically critical states, including Modi’s biggest rivals in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu this summer. Can Kishor complete a full circle and help dethrone Modi in the 2024 national election?
3 - Ryan Coetzee
The South African strategist hasn’t matched the level of Kishor’s or Clouthier’s successes — but his star remains bright. Coetzee was a strategist on the team of former British deputy prime minister Nick Clegg when the Liberal Democrats were in the ruling coalition between 2010 and 2015. But in 2015, his efforts to help the Liberal Democrats return to power flopped — as did his efforts as head of the Remain campaign during the Brexit vote. Still, he was hired last July by an embattled Hong Kong administration to resurrect the territory’s reputation globally at a time when China’s crackdown is making companies and expats rethink their future there.
The Terrorist’s Favorite Brand
Violent extremists might say they’re working in the name of God. But they’re very worldly when it comes to choosing brands to use. For the brands themselves, it’s an uncomfortable association they can do little about.
If you’ve been watching the news from Afghanistan, you can’t have missed the unmistakable Taliban vehicle of choice. Their fighters became almost synonymous with Toyota pickups in the 1990s. History’s now repeating itself. But it’s not just the Taliban. The sturdy vehicles are also the favorites of ISIS and militant groups across Iraq, Syria, Chad and Mali. Which might be why Toyota introduced a new contract for buyers at the launch of its 2022 Land Cruiser model in Japan in August. Customers must commit to waiting at least a year before reselling the pickup.
2 - Casio F-91W-1 Watch
It’s one of Casio’s most popular timepieces — 3 million units are manufactured each year. It’s also particularly loved by terrorists. Cheap, resilient and sturdy, the watch is distributed to recruits at Al Qaeda training camps and was even worn by Osama bin Laden himself. The F-91’s long timer duration — it can be set for more than a day — also makes it ideal for detonating bombs. ISIS fighters have also been known to wear it.
3 - Nokia 105 Cellphone
If the Casio F-91W-1 serves as a timer, this cheap-and-simple Nokia cellphone — Microsoft bought the company in 2014 — is an ISIS favorite as a detonator. A typical bomb uses two of these phones: A terrorist uses one to call the other, which in turn sends a signal that triggers the explosion. A reminder that terrorists often use the most ubiquitous gadgets and vehicles as weapons of destruction.
Three Reads to (Really) Understand Latin America
You might have read Gabriel García Marquez and Isabel Allende. But to really understand Latin America, get your hands on these three books.
Through a series of chronicles, journalist Daniel Hernandez takes you through the good, the bad and the fascinating in one of Latin America’s most vibrant cities and its 20 million inhabitants. By the time you’re done, you’ll be buying plane tickets.
2 - ‘The Republic of Women’
Way before gender issues were mainstream subjects of debate, Nicaraguan author Gioconda Belli wrote one of Latin America’s feminist bibles. This story imagines a traditionally male-dominated country that suddenly finds itself entirely run by women. Curious? You should be.
3 - ‘Santa Evita’
You’ve heard Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, maybe seen Evita. This is much better. Part investigative journalism, part fiction, this novel tells the story of former Argentine first lady Eva Perón’s childhood, incredible achievements, and afterlife (yes, you read that correctly) through some of Latin America’s most transformative years.
Rapper Big Sean talks about the importance of educating young people about money management as a way of closing the racial wealth gap. This artist-turned-activist teamed up with Ally Financial to promote his campaign.
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